Overall, the cruise industry has survived the pandemic by using a creative approach to change while operating with an abundance of caution. Destinations have been highly limited and borders have opened and closed. Thus making booking unpredictable at times. This could have been a disaster for the cruise industry. But, most companies turned it around and made cruise vacations one of the safest travel options. Here are a few ways in which the cruise industry is staying afloat during the pandemic.
It's sad to imagine a world where the best cruise ships are without passengers because there is simply nowhere to travel. Thankfully, cruise companies were able to come up with a creative way to avoid that with a concept called "cruises to nowhere." Cutting back on port calls or doing away with them all together might sound like an extreme solution. But it was actually quite effective. On these "cruises to nowhere," passengers board a ship and are driven out into the ocean for the allure of onboard amenities and activities. Rest and relaxation in the lap of luxury was the ultimate goal.
For the ships that were still able to include port calls in their itineraries, they simply limited access. For example, in areas where passengers were allowed to go on excursions, they could only do so with a guide. Avoiding self-guided tours stops passengers from intermingling with locals. Thus, keeping exposure to potential health risks at a minimum.
Vaccine requirements weren't new for some cruise itineraries. For example, ships docking in Gabon always require passengers to have a yellow fever vaccine. However, once the COVID-19 vaccine was made available, several companies issued a requirement for all passengers. Regardless of destination, they must provide proof of vaccination.
Prior to the vaccine, COVID testing was readily available. Cruise lines took advantage of this as a safety precaution. Passengers must provide proof of a negative test within 48 hours of boarding the ship. They also require temperature checks and health surveys to monitor for potential symptoms in every guest.
Restricting the vast majority of the world's population from participating in your service might seem like an absurd idea; however, it proved to be an effective response to the pandemic for cruise companies. Many companies made the decision to launch cruises for the country of departure only. This means that only locals can buy tickets and the itinerary includes destinations in the departure country only. For example, cruises now sail around the U.K., stopping in major cities in England, Ireland, and Scotland. While this may not work as well during regular circumstances, it sells well during the pandemic. People have been itching for a vacation of any kind, even an elaborate staycation.
When the typical cruise departure locations aren't available, companies had to find a way to launch ships rather than shutting down. When you think of taking a cruise to an oasis such as Cyprus, you probably don't assume you'll be departing from Israel, but that's what some companies are doing. Tickets are only for locals, but using hubs that have never been home base is an effective way to keep cruise ships in motion.
Another example is St. Martin. Ships come in and out of the Caribbean daily, but St. Martin has never been a major hub because it simply didn't make sense. Logistically, it is more expensive to supply a ship in that area. However, one cruise line has taken that risk in order to open travel opportunities to passengers.
The pandemic cruise experience has certainly been different but not at all worse. Some companies now launch their ships only half full to allow passengers the ability to safely distance themselves from one another. This results in dining and activity experiences with half the crowds and even more time to enjoy your vacation. Overall, the cruise industry has made the best of an otherwise unfortunate situation and continues to create memorable vacations for passengers.